The last decade has seen progress in all areas of gender equality in HE and in our wider society, there has been positive impacts from making organisations publish their gender pay gaps, greater gender diversity in senior roles and on boards. However gender based violence and harassment is still an issue for all and progress is still slower than it should be. This progress is also at risk of being compromised with the arrival and ongoing impacts of Covid-19.
The pressures of home working, burdens of unpaid caring responsibilities, job vulnerability and adverse impacts on promotion opportunities that have arisen as a consequence of the current global pandemic risks sending the progress made into reverse.
Building back better
Moving forward, there is a danger that we focus on the undoubtedly negative impact that Covid-19 has had on women’s equality and conflate remote working with increased childcare and domestic responsibilities as well as poor mental health and wellbeing. Yet remote working is not new and has been a key tool pre Covid19 to support women’s equality and career progression. This alongside better technological options offers immense possibility to allow and enable women to better balance the
personal and the professional and enable participation in opportunities vital for success and thriving.
Now is the time for a discussion around how we reflect on the what has happened through the pandemic but work together to avoid regression and harness opportunity – to ‘build back better’ for gender equality.
Join the conversation at #WomenHEConf21
The Advance HE Women in HE Conference 2021 will take a look back at the insights we have gained from our work on gender equality over the course of the last 12 months through the Athena Swan Charter, the publication of the 5 year Aurora longitudinal study (which will be published in February 2021) and the findings of our recently launched survey into the impact of the shift to greater home working through Covid-19 on gender. We will use these insights and those of others from within and outside of the sector through our invited guest speakers and contributors to consider solutions and options for gender progression at this time of huge challenge for all in HE.
The aims of the Women in HE Conference 2021 are to:
- Share insights and learnings from studies inside and external to Advance HE on the impact of Covid-19 for women - where have we lost ground and why?
- Use these insights to gain a better sense of what works for gender equality more widely
- Offer opportunities to discuss and consider options and solutions that enable us to maintain and achieve growth in progress, or ‘build back better’ harnessing the changes for positive benefit
- Connect a community of peers that can aid and support each other during times of change and challenge
Alison was appointed chief executive of Advance HE in autumn 2017. Prior to that she was the chief executive of the Leadership Foundation and has worked in higher education for 25 years. Before becoming chief executive, she was head of policy for leadership, governance and management at the Hefce (now the Office for Students), where she established both the Leadership Foundation and the Equality Challenge Unit.
Ellen is a Senior Adviser at Advance HE specialising in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. She has many years of experience working to promote equality, in particular gender and disability equality in the higher education sector across the UK. Ellen has been a member of several Joint Negotiating Committees for Higher Education Staff working groups to improve understanding and information on gender pay issues in the HE sector.
Professor Parveen Yaqoob
Parveen Yaqoob is Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Reading and the Chair of the Athena Swan Governance Committee. She is a Professor of Nutritional Physiology, manages an active research team and serves on a number of research funding panels.
Michelle Ryan is a Professor of Social and Organisational Psychology at the University of Exeter, UK and a (part-time) Professor of Diversity at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. She currently holds a European Research Council Consolidator Grant to investigate how context constrains women’s careers choices.
Fiona Mactaggart is a leading feminist campaigner and former Labour MP for Slough. She is a former Home Office Minister and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, and spent 20 years in parliament but stood down before the last election. Throughout her professional life she has campaigned to improve women’s lives and fight inequality and discrimination. Most notable is her work on Labour’s Older Women’s Commission and women’s representation, her campaigning to end violence against women and girls and her long-standing view that sex-buyers should be criminalised.
Professor Shearer West
Professor Shearer West is the seventh Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Nottingham, taking up office on 2 October 2017. Shearer is a Professor of Art History and has held a number of significant leadership roles in universities and higher education.
Case study parallel workshop speakers
Dr Eurig Scandrett
Dr Eurig Scandrett is Senior Lecturer in Public Sociology at Queen Margaret University, a branch representative in University and College Union and a longstanding supporter of feminist activism. He has supported formal and informal education and research into understanding and tackling violence against women, including through a partnership between the university and Scottish Women's Aid. He is editor of Public Sociology as Educational Practice (2020, Bristol University Press).
Exploring the impact of COVID-19 responses and remote working in HE survey
Between October and December 2020 Advance HE conducted a survey exploring the impact of Covid-19 on remote working, the support staff have received from their institutions and gender differences in these experiences. The survey not only assessed the barriers faced by staff working in UK higher education, but also considered how the shift to remote working may have positively impacted staff members’ engagement with various aspects of their roles.
As part of February’s Connect Benefit Series, we will publish a report with initial findings of the survey. These results and our corresponding recommendations will be reported at the Women in HE Conference.